The Lowdown on the New Numbers Documentary
A poster advertising Numbers' 35th anniversary in September 2013 features the likeness of late owner Robert "Robot" Burtenshaw, who had passed away two months before.
Photo by Francisco Montes
A Kickstarter to fund a cinematic look at Houston's longest-running nightclub and concert venue launched this week. Director Marcus Pontello and producer Jeromy Barber of Dinolion are seeking $40,000 in crowdsourced funds to try and explore the unique history of the legendary venue in Friday I'm in Love.
"This started with me being 15 and thinking Numbers was a magical and beautiful place, says Pontello. "I felt accepted and embraced by the alternative community."
Pontello hasn't missed a Friday at Numbers since he returned from living in New Orleans and Los Angeles two years ago. Try as he might in even those cities, he could never quite find another place like Numbers to call home. The homesickness for the venue brought him back to Houston to see if he could bring it to life on camera.
Thus far the crew has been working without a budget, hoping to get some momentum going. Pontello spoke with now-deceased original owner Beverly Wren, who was there when the club made the transition from dinner-theater joint to gay disco in the '70s and '80s. They've also been in touch with the family of the late Robert "Robot" Burtenshaw, as well as current owner Rudi Bunch and longtime resident DJ Wes Wallace. Dinolion also recently helped Wallace create a music video for a cover of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" recently (see above).
A large focus of the documentary will be on the many, many iconic bands that have traveled through Houston via Numbers, so the primary goal is to secure travel expenses to enable one-on-one interviews. Already Pontello and Barber have spoken to Vince Clarke and Andy Bell of Erasure, Douglas McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb, and members of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. They're keen on trying to speak to some of the acts that passed through numbers on their way to much larger fame (Nine Inch Nails, Green Day), and will also feature local heroes like The Judy's and Bliss Blood of the Pain Teens.
"We're hoping to do this without rushing it," says Pontello. "When we interviewed Vince and Andy their people were like, 'OK, we've got a 25-minute window and you'd better take it.' We'd like to be able to take out time and open up with some of these people to get good stories."
Even more than the music, though, Friday I'm In Love is aiming to connect with regular people who have called the club home over the years.
Marcus Pontello with a smaller version of the famous wall poster detailing all the acts that have played at Numbers
Photo by Jeromy Barber
"There's a historical aspect and the influence that it's had on Houston culture," says Pontello. "We hear the same story over and over again from very different people. Different ages, races, orientations and whatever all say, 'I came here and felt I belonged.'"
The campaign is off to a good start, having already raised $2,500 on its first day. Some of the rewards to donors are pretty impressive. $75 nets you not only a nice bag of swag including Wes Wallace mix tapes, T-shirts and stickers but also a print of a special Numbers-inspired painting by Rene Fernandez, the artist responsible for the mural of goth legends currently adorning the side of the building.
Less happily you will have to come in at the $500 range before offers to see the film itself in late 2016 start appearing, something that is becoming more and more common in serious Kickstarter film campaigns. Still, it's a chance to be a part of documenting one of the city's central musical institutions.
"I think what happens at Numbers in terms of community acceptance is unique and compelling," says Pontello.
Story continues on the next page.
Nitzer Ebb performing at Numbers in 2009
Photo by Groovehouse
A 1995 poster touts Sonic Youth's Washing Machine-era Numbers appearance.
Courtesy of Uncle Charlie Art
Update: as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Friday I'm In Love team had raised more than $3,700 of their $40K goal, with 31 days to go. Donate here.
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